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The sharing economy entails peer-to-peer exchanges for renting goods and services utilizing the Internet. In this paper, we critically examine the sharing economy's prospects and challenges for public sector, and explore the policy responses to the sharing economy. The sharing economy is innovative in capitalizing on underutilized assets using Internet platforms, but has adverse impacts as well (e.g. it could exacerbate inequality). As users, public agencies could adapt internal procurement processes focused on renting, and partner with sharing platforms to complement and supplement public services. As regulators, government agencies have a paradoxical role to maintain the sharing economy's innovation while addressing its downsides. Our study shows mixed policy reactions to sharing economy in three prominent sectors (mobility services, accommodation sharing, and gig labor). We suggest a research agenda that e-government scholars should focus on in order to critically examine the different facets of the emerging sharing economy.
6. Conclusion and further research
Although it is based on Internet technology platforms, the sharing economy is a business model based on renting. As users, public agencies could tap on the public value of the sharing economy. The emphasis on renting could reduce waste and increase efficiency as it puts into use the otherwise dormant assets or labor, although the long-term environmental consequences are unknown due to rebound effect. Adaptive governance in the context of sharing economy would imply that the public agencies shift internal digital government processes (e.g. procurement) to share assets. Digital government could facilitate on demand sharing to use the assets at capacity. Sharing equipment, vehicles, and space hold promise on this front. Public agencies could also partner with sharing economy platforms to complement and supplement public services, such as transit and emergency accommodation after disasters.
Contending with the sharing economy is, however, not simply a technological artifact for public agencies. It also implies dealing with broader consequences of the sharing economy. Adaptive governance in this context implies being cognizant of the policy responses to address the downsides. Digital government researchers should not only focus on the digital aspect, but also have to be wary of unequal impact of the economy in terms of who is served and who is not. Just as digital divide has been a long-term concern for e-government researchers, inequality is a central concern with the sharing economy. The sharing economy could be viewed as a harsher form of capitalism that could exacerbate inequality. The sharing economy's benefits accrue to the already wellto-do class with property, and gigs result in precarious work arrangements without benefits. Government agencies have to deal with the burden of the negative externalities. Strident criticism of the sharing economy has come from incumbent, well-established groups like taxi unions and hotels, whose businesses are disrupted by the sharing economy.